Custody Issues For Same-Sex Couples in Michigan (Part 1)

When the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in 2015, it was a groundbreaking moment for LGBT couples all over the nation. But with marriage comes all of those other, less celebrated aspects of legalizing your union, namely divorce and custody issues. However for same-sex couples, these situations can present a whole new set of dilemmas that heterosexual couples never have to face.


When same-sex couples have children, whether by adoption, surrogate birth or sperm donor, they face the challenge of deciding which of the pair will be the biological parent, and which of them will be the parent in name only. While that may sound harsh, it is in no way meant to demean the valuable parenting efforts that non-biological parents in same-sex marriages contribute to the raising of their children. But from a legal standpoint in Michigan, it does accurately present the current dilemma.


The creation of a child requires both male and female genetic contributions, therefore same-sex couples are forced to rely on outside assistance to have children. Unfortunately, this means that in the event that the relationship doesn’t survive the passage of time, they are in a unique situation where usually, only one of them is legally considered to be a parent to the child or children.


In “The Other Mother: A Lesbian’s Fight for Her Daughter,”  Nancy Abrams documents the painful struggle she endured for years, during which time she fought for the right to parent her daughter from a same-sex relationship. Abrams was not the biological parent to her child, and so when she and her partner parted ways, her former partner refused to allow her any parenting rights, or even the opportunity to see her daughter.


Abram’s situation, while tragic, is neither new, nor uncommon. Michigan law, while it upholds the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage, has not progressed much when it comes to other areas of same-sex equality. In particular, the one area we are discussing that still needs significant improvement, is the issue of custody.


Join us next time, when we will be looking at a particularly contentious case that’s moving through the courts right now, that deals with this particular issue and the legal implications it has for the future of same-sex couples all over Michigan.